Committee not ‘value for money’
The Cayman Islands largest private sector representative organization is questioning the government’s decision to appoint a committee charged with seeking a long-term solution for the George Town landfill.
The Chamber of Commerce indicated its disagreement to the approach proposed by Health Minister Osbourne Bodden in the Legislative Assembly last month, stating that reams of data regarding solid waste management already exist in Cayman or are easily available through “desktop technology.”
“The [Chamber] Council questions the merit and value of this approach, of travel, fact-finding missions and exhaustive research,” read a Feb. 4 letter from Chamber President Johann Moxam to Mr. Bodden. “In fact, we assess it to be unnecessarily protracted and unlikely to deliver value for money.
“The failure of successive governments to find a solution is not the result of lack of information, it is the lack of clarity about what the government is trying to achieve,” Mr. Moxam continued in the letter. “If is lack of courage to make a decision in the best interest of our islands.”
In late January, Minister Bodden told the Legislative Assembly that the 16-person committee he appointed would take some time to complete its review and that he hoped to have some form of remediation under way at the landfill site within two years. The committee consists of 13 civil servants or government employees, one elected member of the Legislative Assembly, and two former political candidates who sided with the ruling Progressives party in the May 2013 general elections.
“The islands cannot afford to wait another year or two, or worse yet, another four-year administration, to decide on a solution for this urgent, important environmental public health matter,” Mr. Moxam wrote.
He said the Chamber asked the government to set a Sept. 30, 2014 deadline for an agreed national solution for the landfill that would include “improved waste-handling capabilities by introducing recycling efforts, finding environmentally friendly means of disposal of non-recyclables and upgrading the sewage treatment system and opening a new solid waste landfill.”
The Chamber letter did not go as far as supporting the previous proposal from the Dart group of companies that sought to construct a waste management facility in Midland Acres and cap the current landfill site in George Town.
Two days prior to Minister Bodden’s landfill address in the Legislative Assembly, the Chamber Council also wrote to Environmental Health Department Director Roydell Carter, seeking a response to several questions.
Those questions included efforts to determine what policies existed with regard to Cayman’s solid waste management, and who was responsible for them; what initiatives the department had in place to start reducing per capita waste generation and what government’s public relations strategy was relative to solid waste issues.
By Tuesday, Mr. Moxam said no response had been received by the Chamber Council.
“The size, smell, unsightliness and environmental implications of the George Town and Cayman Brac landfills continue to be a matter of great significance and concern for the Chamber of Commerce membership,” Mr. Moxam wrote to Mr. Carter on Jan. 29. “As you can appreciate, the medium to long term strategy on how to address the management of solid waste disposal impacts the natural environment and affects economic development.”
Since the two letters were sent, a second major fire erupted on the landfill property in central George Town, burning from approximately 6 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12 to 12:04 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. Smoke from the fire was spotted from West Bay to Savannah on Grand Cayman and forced the temporary closure of two private schools, as well as the Caribbean Utilities Company offices.
The cause of last week’s fire at the landfill was still unknown Tuesday at press time. Chief Fire Officer Rosworth McLaughlin said his investigators were still out at the landfill site trying to determine a cause.
In a statement last week, Minister Bodden said the recent landfill fire, following on the heels of a huge Dec. 20 tire fire at the dump site, “reinforces the decision” to form the steering committee to develop a proper waste management system.
“These fires only serve to underscore the fact that it is of critical importance to the country that we find a sustainable solution to waste management,” Mr. Bodden said. “We have learned many lessons through this experience and now it’s time to move on and look ahead.”